Siting Offshore Wind
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within the U.S. Department of Interior is responsible for determining where offshore wind development can occur in waters more than 3 nautical miles from shore. To be developed at scale, offshore wind projects require large swaths of the ocean. A typical wind farm may contain dozens or even hundreds of turbines, each spaced approximately one mile apart from each other.
In selecting areas of the ocean to lease for offshore wind development, the federal government must consider all existing ocean uses and environmental factors, selecting those areas that maximize the resource potential for offshore wind production while minimizing conflicts within the space. To assist in this process, New York State has spent years conducting extensive research, fieldwork, and public engagement to understand offshore wind and potential areas that offer the most benefit to New York’s electricity consumers and the least overall potential for impacts. Using this growing body of research, NYSERDA makes recommendations to the federal government to help inform the siting of potential offshore wind lease areas.
In support of new Wind Energy leasing, New York State conducted rigorous fieldwork, analysis, and stakeholder outreach regarding appropriate locations for wind installations off the State’s Atlantic coast. In October 2017, the State recommended an Area for Consideration [PDF] to BOEM. This area was refined through a comprehensive process based on available data and guided by stakeholder feedback, aiming to maximize benefits and minimize conflicts to ocean users. The State submitted extensive information supporting this recommendation, which the State views as best suited for future offshore wind development.
In April 2018, BOEM issued a notice [PDF] identifying proposed locations for future wind energy development – this is called the New York Bight Call Area. New York’s recommended Area for Consideration was included inside the Call Area. BOEM continued collecting feedback on the potential for developing new wind energy areas.
In March 2021 BOEM identified nearly 800,000 acres as Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the New York Bight, between Long Island and the New Jersey coast, and initiated an environmental review, with public input, on these areas in federal waters for potential offshore wind leasing. The process began with a BOEM Task Force Meeting in April 2021.
New York Pre-Development Activities
As BOEM advances Wind Energy Areas to Lease Areas, the State is investing in pre-development activities to gain a better understanding of the physical and environmental conditions in these areas. Offshore Wind pre-development activities include collecting and analyzing field data and other site assessment work that will reduce risks and lower procurement costs for offshore wind, specifically costs to New York State ratepayers, accelerate development timelines and support responsible development with data. In the absence of these activities, developers acquiring new leases would be required to develop and file a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) with BOEM before work can begin. This effectively results in no data collection for a year or more after site acquisition, in addition to another year or more to contract, permit, and acquire the data. By initiating pre-development work in advance of leasing, NYSERDA accelerates data acquisition by more than 2 years, bringing value to multiple rounds of OREC procurements.
NYSERDA has been investing in pre-development activities since 2016, with additional work ongoing. All work is made publicly available, and, in many cases, the data is being used by developers, regulators, and scientists to better understand the conditions in the New York Bight. Below is a complete list of new data collection activities that NYSERDA has or is supporting.
- A Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) and Benthic Survey was conducted by Inspire Environmental in 2017 as a planning-level characterization of the geological (sediment size and type), geotechnical (density of bottom), and benthic (animal habitat) characteristics of the New York Bight. The survey [PDF] studied and analyzed a reconnaissance-level, broad area survey resulting in MBES data products (primarily high-resolution bathymetry and backscatter) and Sediment Profile Image (SPI) and Plan View (PV) photographic data used to ground truth the acoustic data and provide an initial assessment of benthic habitat types within the Area of Analysis. The SPI/PV imagery provided ground truth data of surface sediment characteristics (grain size, shear strength, and biological activity) that were used to identify areas with potential sensitive habitats.
- A Geophysical Survey (2020-2021) was conducted by Gardline within two study areas that cover the Hudson North and Hudson South draft WEAs located in the New York Bight following the publication of a Geophysical and Geotechnical Desktop Study [PDF]. The geophysical survey was a reconnaissance-level investigation consistent with BOEM guidelines for a High-Resolution Geophysical Survey and Site Assessment Plans. Survey equipment used during the geophysical survey included a multi-beam echo sounder (MBES), side scan sonar (SSS), shallow sub-bottom profiler (SBP), multichannel ultra-high resolution seismic (M-UHRS) system, a magnetic gradiometer, and an ultra-short baseline (USBL) positioning system. This equipment was used to characterize the bathymetry, surface sediments, and sediment layers just below the seabed in the study areas. Data is undergoing third party evaluation by WSP and available here.
- A multi-year ultra-high resolution Digital Aerial Survey of marine resources was conducted by Normandeau and APEM in a 43,745 km2 area encompassing the waters of the New York Bight from Long Island southeast to the continental shelf break. Surveys were conducted on a quarterly basis from Summer 2016 through Spring 2018 and timed to coincide with periods of abundance of avian and marine species that could be vulnerable to impacts from offshore wind activities. Each survey collected images covering at least 7% of the survey area. For each survey, approximately 300,000 images were collected using a transect design and all wildlife identified to the highest possible taxonomic resolution. Over 3.5 million images were collected to provide a stunning baseline of information about the avian and marine wildlife in the Bight, and a summary report [PDF] is available.
- Two floating MetOcean LiDAR (light detection and ranging) buoys were deployed in the New York Bight in the summer of 2019 by Ocean Tech in Wind Energy Areas identified as Hudson South and Central Bight. Both buoys have been validated to meet or exceed industry performance standards, including validation to the Carbon Trust OWA Stage 2 Standard and the IEC Standard 614700-12-1 CDV. Each of these MetOcean buoys are deployed for a period of at least two years to measure turbine hub-height wind speed and direction, and wave and current measurements. Data is being validated and made available by DNV GL. In addition to traditional MetOcean data, the buoys are also equipped with sensors to collect and record wildlife data. This includes passive acoustic microphones to detect vocalizations by birds and bats, nanotag receivers to detect tagged birds and fish, and hydrophones to detect vocalizations by marine mammals. Wildlife data analysis is being conducted by Normandeau Associates.
Renewable Energy in the Ocean
While the Atlantic Ocean may look like a vast open space, the areas off of the northeastern and mid-Atlantic coasts are bustling with marine wildlife and heavily used for human activities, such as transportation, resource extraction, military exercises, shipping, fishing, and more. These marine ecosystems are naturally dynamic [PDF], with daily, seasonal, and annual variations in environmental conditions.
- BOEM New York Bight Homepage [PDF]
- New York State responses to Draft Proposed Sale Notice, April 2021 [PDF]
- New York State Area for Consideration for the Potential Locating of Offshore Wind Energy Areas [PDF]
- Former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's letter to Secretary Zinke [PDF]
- Multi-agency letter to BOEM [PDF]
- View large, individual maps of the Area for Consideration and indicative Wind Energy Areas [PDF]
- Download the GIS shapefiles for the Area for Consideration and indicative Wind Energy Areas [ZIP] *GIS mapping software required
- New York State's comments on BOEM’s Call for Information and Nominations [PDF]